Used wisely, social media can be very beneficial for your career. However, by making some poor choices with social media, you can also severely harm your career prospects. This article provides sound advice for using social media sensibly to enhance your career.
You may have heard the Las Vegas convention bureau promotion: "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." The same is very much true of the Internet: "What gets posted on the Internet, stays on the Internet, forever!" As a result of caching by Google and other parts of the Internet infrastructure, retweeting, copying of posts, sharing of posts, and the like, something you put on the Internet today could well still be there—and haunt you—for the rest of your life. It has become standard practice for companies to do an Internet search of people before extending job offers, and inappropriate posts can certainly harm your chances of getting the job you want. Keep this in mind whenever you are tempted to post something risqué or socially insensitive.
So, how do you use social media wisely other than simply being careful about what you post? One suggestion is to separate personal social media and business social media accounts. Consider setting up an account or two for personal use and allow only close friends and family to connect with you there. Don't accept business connections into this circle. You can then share more personal information with friends and family without a substantial risk that they will be seen by your business contacts.
Then set up one or more additional accounts for business use where you can connect with colleagues and business contacts. Keep your posts to these accounts very professional, always seeking to present a positive image of yourself. Avoid controversial subjects that may offend some portion of your network of contacts, and never criticize your employer, your colleagues, or others with whom you have—or may in the future have—a business connection. Through these accounts, share helpful information that demonstrates your knowledge of the field in which you work to make a positive impression on people.
The most prevalent social media platform for business is LinkedIn, and you should definitely have an account set up there. LinkedIn has become a primary tool for many corporate recruiters. Spend as much time and attention on your profile page in LinkedIn as you do on your résumé since it is, in effect, your online résumé. Include a professional photo of yourself. Document all of your educational achievements, your internships, and any other unique experiences that may appeal to an employer. Edit and proofread it multiple times. Then ask a friend or family member to proofread it for you. Typos are your enemy!
Your contact list in LinkedIn is very valuable because it is constantly updated by the contacts themselves as opposed to other contact lists that you must keep up to date yourself. Whenever you meet someone new, send them an invitation to connect. Then send a note thanking them when they do. Building a robust contact list in LinkedIn can be a very powerful aid to future job searches.
Also, consider joining some of the groups in LinkedIn that relate to your field. Then occasionally add comments demonstrating your expertise to some of the posts. Just be certain that they are well thought out and expressed—and accurate. One group to consider is the IRMI group, which is one of the larger ones for risk management and insurance professionals. You will find many posts by IRMI staff as well as other members on a variety of risk and insurance topics.
One final word of caution about social media: read, understand, and abide by your employer's social media policy. Social media posts can impact a company's reputation and brand, and as a result, many companies have developed policies intended to guide employees with respect to the business use of social media. Needless to say, disregarding such guidelines can be very detrimental to your career.
In summary, smart use of social media can play a beneficial role in your career, whereas careless posts can be very detrimental. By separating business and personal accounts, you can place yourself in a relatively good position to achieve both personal and career goals.
Opinions expressed in Expert Commentary articles are those of the author and are not necessarily held by the author's employer or IRMI. Expert Commentary articles and other IRMI Online content do not purport to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinion. If such advice is needed, consult with your attorney, accountant, or other qualified adviser.